(not quite) a literary journal


SONGS OF VIOLENCE, by Iftekhar Sayeed


After the 2001 elections, triumphant student leaders of the ruling party picked up 15-year-old Mahima and gang-raped her on February 13, 2002. The rapists also took photographs of the scenes and circulated them in public. On February 19, she committed suicide by taking pesticides. She received such treatment because her father and brother were opposition activists.

-The Bangladesh Observer, 7th March, 2002

Thirteen, she dreamt of love among her chores;
Indifferent to politics, she had
Seen them excited on election day;
It would be years before she could marry
Or vote. She had no concept of the state
And civilisation; then the boys came
From the ruling party and taught her all
These things in one humiliating night.
Technology abetted lessons; her
Pictures spread through the village like a fire.
The Id unleashed through democratic rule,
She saw the face of evil, and His love;
When nation’s best minds turn away from Him,
What can a young girl do? They found her hanging, too.


And again it had been people on the street who had been forced to take [the] law into their hands and lynch to death (sic) both Alauddin and his younger brother Rakib....Alauddin had been an Awami League activist during the Awami League rule, but jumped the ship to join BNP [Bangladesh Nationalist Party] when they came to power.

- Dhaka Courier, 23rd August 2002

Do you know what it’s like to beat a man
To death? Nobody asked me if I felt
Guilty afterwards, but the answer to
Both questions would be ‘no’. Feel guilty? Hell!
I relished every punch – not that I could
Get many in, you know! There must have been
Five hundred people, a thousand fists and feet
Rammed into breaking bone and cracking flesh!
Why did they do it? It was people power!
Genuine, bona fide, real democracy –
For once, for one night, these two murderers
Could not take refuge with the gangsters, the
Two political parties we’d voted for –
Never again, I swear, not after what I’ve done!


Police could not yet arrest the alleged rapists as some local ruling party leaders gave them shelter.
-The Bangladesh Observer, 7th April, 2003

For seven days they feasted on her flesh;
On the eighth, she fled to the military for
Protection; on the twelfth she filed a case
That came to nothing. People would say she
Was lucky not to have been murdered; some
Would say she was unlucky not to have
Been murdered: villagers would recollect
That stigma far into her lonely life.
Did no one hear her scream that awful night?
Her cries for help were like my cries for help
These past twelve years of democratic rule:
I heard her call twelve years ago, while all
Around me thought it was the ululation
Of freedom by our women; listen! how they cry!


Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 4.20.51 PM.png

Demos, or Demon? Difference? We worship
The first, but not the second; since we are
Supposed to worship none but Him, they are
The same: behold! The month of February,
The briefest, screams its headlines, warning us
Against idolatry – and human sacrifice -  
As we give up our young to the dead, to fiend
That has the power to kill, but not to save.
“But they are only other people’s sons,”
Say many; “so why should I care?” We should
Care, for we were their killers, when we voted,
When we supported parties that used them,
When we bent down before the Demon, Demos:
When parents of the dead proclaimed “They were your sons”.

JL [Jubo League - political party youth wing] leader's beheaded body recovered

Police recovered one behead[ed] body of local Jubo League leader AN Barua, 25, from the Sanghu River....

- The Bangladesh Observer, February 25, 2003

He lost his head.
Gallows humour keeps us sane
In Bangladesh. A country where we’ve lost
Our sanity. The obituary’s buried
In a corner of page 6, barely
3 by 2, under “Zilla News in Brief”,
Along with two road accidents, tornado....
A natural and regular affair,
I nearly missed it for the cricket games.
We pick these boys, democracy’s shock-troops,
When they are teenagers, full of ideas,
And send them out to capture polling-booths
And ballot-boxes; they help themselves to
Taxes from local businessmen; they take to drugs
To block out for short spells a life they know won’t last.


Mr Savimbi fought to oust the new ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Africa (MPLA), largely because he was not in charge of it. His soldiers followed him, largely out of tribal loyalty. The United States and the apartheid regime in South Africa supplied him with cash, missiles and reinforcements, largely because the MPLA was Marxist, and received help from the Soviet Union and Cuba.

- Obituary of Jonas Savimbi, “a despoiler of Angola”, The Economist, March 2nd 2002

He cashed in on the clash of two ideas,
A business opportunity that turned
A student of medicine into killer.
He couldn’t cash out; his cache of arms ran out,
As did his luck, and, above all, his friends.
Angolans celebrated on the streets
When his dead body, bullet-riddled, was
Broadcast – live – on his coveted TV.
How many Savimbis have I seen die
Trying to turn an ideology
Into a business plan? The new idea,
Freedom, turns students into killers
Here, in my country; the bottom line
Accrues to westerners and savvy patriots.